‘The Shack’, Mack and his god: Forward

'The Shack' by William P. Young
'The Shack' by William P. Young

I’ll be trying to take this chapter by chapter. There will mostly be three main sections to my posts: the good, the bad, the application. I don’t want to misrepresent Mr. Young’s book. There are points worth learning what he is teaching but many others where it is worth learning something else.

I will also be addressing one main topic – one main good and one main bad, not the entire chapter. So for the Forward, the good is Young’s writing. The bad is Mack’s god. The good is straight forward. The bad will focus on the picture of a god Mack would probably have had growing up.

Young is a good writer. There are two things he does extremely well in the forward and throughout the book. The first is that he draws us in with the character of Mack, giving the impression that this book is a true account of a real man who has some dark event in his life which his god personally helped him through. The second is that Young is constantly commentating on the culture, the scene, the people etc. These side-bars also draw us in – into a place of levity and familiarity. There is a lot of responsibility when you write this well. Young’s side-bars and commentaries become almost unnoticed as they continue on in the book to teach his readers both by assumption and instruction. This can be dangerous if he assumes or instructs heresy.

The bad, or rather sad, part is Mack’s god. Within Mack’s world he would have had a tough picture of who God was. Two causes of this picture of his god would be the god’s lack of holiness and lack of justice. In Mack’s life he had an evil father. Of course this gave him a poor picture of God but what is more is that Mack’s church did not enact any church discipline. God has appointed justice to reign in the church (Matthew 18:15-20). So Mack’s father should have been punished not only by the law but especially removed from the church. This injustice could (if Mack were not a fictitious character) have started Mack’s delusion of God’s justice. Mack also attempted to murder his father by putting poison into the alcohol his father would drink. According to Romans 12:19 vengeance belongs to the Lord. This too indicates that the justice and wrath of God is not developed or is corrupted in Mack from his youth.

Later in life Mack continues to have difficulty in establishing a relationship with God. He attends seminary in Australia where he has “his fill of theology”. This begins, or really continues, the assault on God’s holiness, confining God to something of which you can get filled up on (for theology is no more than the study of God and His work which are both inexhaustible).

The holiness of God is chided by the author also. One of those sections of side-bars by Young harshly treats our Creator saying, “God might be there even if you don’t believe in him. That would be just like him. He hasn’t been called the Grand Interferer for nothing.” Two things, God does not depend upon anyone’s belief in order to exist. And the word “interferer” has a negative connotation, meaning it insults God to describe Him that way. Honestly, wouldn’t you be insulted by being called the grand interferer? Young abuses his good writing skill here to endear the reader to false ideas about God.

Last, God’s holiness is questioned from the beginning. The opening paragraph of the forward states that “a man claims to have spent an entire weekend with God”. And we are skeptical as the author predicts. The Bible states several times that no one has ever seen or can see God (Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 5:37, 6:46, 1 John 4:12) which means God the Father has not been seen. But God the Son has made Him known (John 5:37, 1:18). So seeing God the Father is impossible but by seeing God the Son, Jesus Christ, we see God (John 14:7) because that is the Son’s role (but we’ll get to that later!). So what the Bible states partly to highlight God’s holiness, Young contradicts from the beginning.

As you hopefully continue to read this series I would like you to keep a few more notes from the Forward in mind. Through the Forward we are informed of Mack making “uncomfortable sense in a world where most folks would rather just hear what they are used to hearing” and although “he has strong convictions, he has a gentle way about him that lets you keep yours”. I hope my reader will take my comments on Mack and his story in the same spirit but allow themselves to consider the wisdom of not keeping their convictions when the Bible opposes the story. Young, in the last paragraph of the Forward, writes that he would not be surprised by errors being contained in the story about to be related. That is the wonderful thing about the Bible. It can be used to guide our discernment and help us separate truth from heresy.